People seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are having to endure longer and longer wait times for their hearings. I regularly update the average wait times for local hearing offices as well as issues affecting or causing the backlog. Recently, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) announced a plan to speed up the hearings process for claimants awaiting a hearing in their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI claims.
The plan has been titled the “Compassionate And Responsive Services (CARES). It is hoped that this initiative will decrease average processing times to 270 days by fiscal year 2020. The plan, which requires administrative funding by Congress, would involve several areas to attack the problem
- The SSA has a goal to hire 250 Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) per fiscal year from 2016 to 2018 with additional support staff.
- The SSA plans to assign Administrative Appeals Judges (AAJs) to hear two types of cases currently heard by ALJs. The AAJs would hear non-disability cases such as retirement or survivor benefit claims as well as contested overpayment cases. Additionally, AAJs would be able to issue decisions on claims appealed to the Appeals Council where the Appeals Council requires further action. Normally, cases heard by the Appeals Council are remanded back to the same ALJ for another hearing.
- The SSA plans to expand the National Adjudication Team (NAT) to consider more fully-favorable decisions on the record.
- SSA plans to offer pre-hearing conferences with senior attorneys to unrepresented claimants.
- Increase the number of video hearings.
- Beefed up case screening to identify cases with a high probability of a fully-favorable decision.
Unfortunately, due to the current political environment, it is unlikely that all of these issues will be fully implemented due to lack of funding by Congress.
If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI matter, personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), EEOICPA claim, long or short-term disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website.